Carbon Footprint Labeling in College Cafeterias

Abstract

We estimate the causal effect of carbon footprint labels on individual food choices and quantify potential carbon emission reductions, using data from a large-scale field experiment at five university cafeterias with over 80,000 individual meal choices. Results show that carbon footprint labels led to a decrease in the probability of selecting a high-carbon footprint meal by approximately 2.7 percentage points with consumers substituting to mid-carbon impact meals. We find no change in the market share of low-carbon meals, on average. The reduction in high-carbon footprint meals is driven by decreases in sales of meat meals while sales of mid-ranged vegan, vegetarian and fish meals all increased. We estimate that the introduction of carbon footprint labels was associated with a 4.3% reduction in average carbon emissions per meal. We contrast our findings with those from nudge-style interventions and discuss the cost-effectiveness of carbon footprint labels. Our results suggest that carbon footprint labels present a viable and low-cost policy tool to address information failure and harness climatarian preferences to encourage more sustainable food choices.

Publication
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 114

The online appendix can be accessed here.

Paul Lohmann
Paul Lohmann
Research Associate

My research interests include behavioural environmental economics and field experiments.